State Rep. Daniel Patterson will probably not be using the "family man" label in his campaign literature this year, like he has in the past.
The freshman Democratic lawmaker, who is running for a second term in Legislative District 29, is evading service, according to the Pima County Sheriff's Office, for an order of protection filed by his estranged wife as the two settle the details of their divorce.
According to the Pima County Sheriff's Department and Pima County Superior Court records, Patterson and his wife, Jeneiene Schaffer, filed for divorce on Aug. 27, and on the same date, his wife filed for a restraining order against him.
A deputy called Patterson the next week to serve him with the order; Patterson said he would meet with the deputy later that week. On Sept. 2, a few minutes after he was supposed to walk into a downtown county building and sign for the order of protection, Patterson called the deputy to say that, at the advice of his attorney, he would not accept the papers. According to a report from the sheriff's office, the deputy told Patterson that his actions would be considered an evasion of service, and would be filed as such.
The deputy was unable to serve Patterson at home, because he is not living at the family home, his wife said, and only has a P.O. box listed with the courts and the sheriff's office.
In fact, none of the many people that the Weekly spoke to knew, or were willing to say, where Patterson is living.
Since moving out of the family home in June—less than six months after his wife had a double-mastectomy operation for breast cancer—he has not told Schaffer where he is living, she said, although she asked him when he visited their daughter.
"I don't know (where he is living)," said Pima County Democratic Party chairman Jeff Rogers last week, before he wrote a letter—as a friend of Patterson's, and not as the county party chairman—to Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel (which Rogers later forwarded to editor Jimmy Boegle), encouraging the Weekly to stop pursuing this story, claiming it involved a personal matter, and nothing more.
Where Patterson is living is an important detail, considering that in June, the Maricopa County Superior Court threw a Republican legislative candidate off the ballot after a private investigator discovered he was not living in the appropriate district.
Rogers said that the sheriff's department is "full of shit" in saying that Patterson evaded service, because they can serve his lawyer with the order at any time. This is a personal and family matter, he said, and restraining orders are routinely filed to gain leverage in divorces "when angry people are angry at their spouse."
When the Weekly later spoke to Rogers, he said he was no longer speaking on his behalf, and that we should call David Lipartito, Patterson's attorney.
Lipartito said he did not consider Patterson's actions to be an evasion of service, because evasion of service is more like when a server comes to a house, and someone runs out the back door. In the end, he said, the matter was "splitting hairs."
Lipartito also said he didn't know where Patterson was living, but that he understands Patterson is living within LD 29. But even if he is not, these are special circumstances, said Lipartito.
"My understanding is that you can leave for short periods of time; you don't have to be at your house every day. He's obviously in a transitional period. He's going to establish a more permanent residence (in the district)," said Lipartito.
Patterson declined to speak with the Weekly before our press deadline, and in an e-mail statement, he said only: "My wife and I have agreed to get a divorce. This is a hard time for me and my family. Sadly, there are some rumors around that have no merit. I have always supported my family, I still do and I will continue to. Divorce is a difficult private personal family matter and I am asking people to please respect that."
During the last legislative session, several people told the Weekly, Patterson was seen less with his wife, and more with his campaign manager, Georgette Escobar.
"It's not that I was suspicious," said Democratic state Sen. Paula Aboud, of midtown Tucson's District 28. "It's that I was concerned with Daniel's behavior. I see him at 8 o'clock in the morning at events with her; I see him at events at 8 o'clock in the evening up there (in Phoenix) with her. In fact, I see him with her at all events that he's at. ... And I wonder: What is a campaign manager doing in Phoenix during the session?"
However, Laura Elias de la Torre, the Democratic Party chairman of Patterson's Legislative District 29, which stretches from south of downtown to southeast Tucson, said people can be quick to jump to conclusions about female campaign managers and male candidates. She said she'd experienced it herself as a campaign manager.
"I don't think they do anything inappropriate," she said. "The problem is (Escobar) is there, and Jeneiene (Schaffer) isn't. ... So the timing is bad for him to, coincidentally or not, have a good-looking campaign manager shortly after his wife went through a mastectomy for breast cancer."
Patterson, who is publicly funded through the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, paid Escobar $500 per month from June to August for campaign work, according to Clean Elections documents. She was also identified as a "voter" speaking on his behalf in a recent campaign advertisement.
Attempts to reach Escobar by phone and at a residence listed as her address were unsuccessful.
In total, the Weekly spoke to more than a dozen Democrats about Patterson. Several sources are members of the same caucus, and the Weekly agreed to withhold their names.
"It was very clear," said one Democratic lawmaker. "Sometime around January, there was a substitution, not only at legislative events and at lobbyist events, but at (Democratic) Party events in Phoenix and in Tucson: It was the removal of Jeneiene (Schaffer) and an insertion of Georgette (Escobar)."
Schaffer agreed talk to the Weekly, but would not comment on specifics of the restraining order or the details of their marriage or divorce. She said Patterson is paying the bills and a weekly allowance for food, but she is broke and having a hard time taking care of their daughter. On Sept. 11, she even wrote a post on her Facebook page asking people for financial help.
She said the post on Facebook was not a shot at Patterson.
"I'm out of money, and I need to feed my child," she said. "I tried to keep it a secret as long as I could. I am not out to get him."